Shadows of the Night
-- Part 1 --
"Hey! Yand! Time to wake up! Time to go!"
Yand opened his eyes only to see the room spinning out of control. Feeling his stomach turn, he immediately closed his eyes again. An unbearable pounding headache prevented him from thinking clearly and every thought increased the pain. He finally managed to force the words out, "What...time is it?" His words came out of a dry and raspy voice.
"Time to go home!" The voice repeated. Yand felt a hand rest on his shoulder. "You need help to get up?"
"No." He opened his eyes carefully. To his relief, the room stopped spinning. His head rested on a wooden table, with numerous mugs lying in front of his muzzle. 1.2. 3. 4... He lost count after seven mugs as his head pounded from the effort. Lifting his head, he looked around and finally remembered where he was: The Dancing Unicorn Pub. He realized he was the only remaining patron. The barkeeper and his three barmaids busily cleaned the pub. As he carefully stood up, the bouncer stood besides him with a bearish grin splitting his muzzle.
Yand yelled to the bruin, "What are you smiling at!" He quickly regretted yelling as his legs gave out and crumbled onto the chair. He placed his paws on his head, relieving little of his headache. Feels like someone used my head as an anvil. The room began to spin again, and he felt his stomach turn along with it.
"You!" The bouncer replied, laughing this time. "You should see yourself."
"Bruno! Don't make fun of Yand!" The barkeep yelled disapprovingly from behind the bar. "You know he's been through lots!"
"Still no reason to be drinking like he does!" The bouncer replied disgustedly.
Yand barely understood the rest of the conversation between the two except for a few words here and there. All he knew is that they were talking about him.
"Well, instead of putting more guilt onto the lad, why don't you bring him home on your way home!" The barkeep replied sternly. Yand laughed in his mind. A large bruin being ordered around by a stout pig. Only his headache prevented him from laughing out loud.
Bruno sighed loudly, "Come on, pup, let me help you to your feet." Yand had little choice on the matter, since Bruno placed both hands around him and easily lifted him to his feet. The sudden movement made the room spin faster and his legs gave way again. Fortunately, Bruno held him up. "Come on, pup. A good walk home will do you some good!" Bruno half-carried Yand out of the pub.
As the door opened, the cool air cleared some of the cobwebs from his mind. He shook his head in hopes of clearing his mind. Instead, the street turned upside-down, making him feel sick again.
"See you later Yand!" The barkeep snorted as they left.
"See you," he barely managed to reply, his throat cracking under the strain, as he awkwardly waved goodbye. With Bruno's help, Yand started his walk home.
They both remained quiet for a while. Yand took the time to enjoy Bruno's warmth surround his cold body, his strong arms supporting his weak body.
"What are you smiling at?" He heard the bruin ask him curiously.
"How I am enjoying this, you carrying me home. I have always hoped for this." He heard himself say, to his great surprise. What have I just done! Yand’s face burned from embarrassment, even though the words spoke true. Yand secretly yearned to be intimate with the large bruin. He spent most of his time in the pub just looking at Bruno's body. His large frame held a powerful chest. His muscular arms connected to equally muscular shoulders. His strong neck held a beautiful head with a strong muzzle, strong jaw and deep brown eyes. Dark black fur covered his entire body, except for light brown fur that ran from under his neck to cover his chest and firm yet fat stomach. Bruno always wore tight clothing that emphasized every muscle on his body. Yand felt himself getting excited and wiped the thought from his mind.
"You know I only like females!" Bruno replied. Yand turned to face the large bear. The grin on his face told him he was far from insulted.
"It is your loss, Bruno!" Yand laughed back. "You do not know what you are missing!" He let his stubby tail rub against the large bear's crotch.
"Now, now!" Bruno laughed back. "Control yourself."
This was another reason why he liked Bruno so much. He could tease the big bear without any fear. All furs accepted male-to-male relationships. It was part of nature. Still, some took offense when you teased them like he did Bruno. He wanted so much to hug the bear; but held back, knowing full well that would be going too far.
Bruno suddenly stopped, looking around frantically. Yand tripped over his own feet. "What is with the sudden…" Yand started to ask as he tried to regain his balance.
"Hush!" Bruno growled. "Something is not right."
Confused, Yand looked around. He listened intently and heard nothing. Suddenly, he realized what Bruno felt: The unnatural silence. Not a sound could be heard. The air felt as quiet and freezing cold. Yand finally noticed his rune tattoos itched and burned. Danger?!? Yand cursed at himself for being so drunk. His thoughts cleared with the sudden surge of adrenaline as he carefully eyed the alleyway. Nothing. Only bare walls, empty streets and shadows. Even in all this emptiness, he felt as if someone or something watched them. Yand felt Bruno's uneasiness.
"Let's get out of here!" Bruno growled quietly.
Yand nodded in agreement. As he took his first step, he felt something grab his foot. He looked down and saw a black claw holding onto his foot. Wha…? Another claw formed from the shadows and grabbed his other foot. Both claws held his feet firmly onto the ground.
He heard a loud growl coming from Bruno. He turned to his companion and found him in the same predicament. "Yand! What's going on?!"
Before he could answer, more hands reached up at Bruno's legs and started to pull him down. Numerous red eyes opened in the shadows. With every pair of eyes that opened, new voice started laughing or whispered, "Fresh meat!"
Slowly, the claws pulled more and more of Bruno's body into the shadow, dragging him down to his knees. Bruno slashed frantically at the hands with no result. "Yand, help me!" He growled.
The bruin's pleads and fear snapped the dog into action. Using a finger, he burned a sigil in the air. Once completed, he channeled a small amount of Chaos into the sigil, amplifying its effect. A powerful bolt of lightning streaked from the sigil, hitting a pair of eyes near his feet. The ground exploded sending stone and dirt shrapnel flying everywhere. A few pieces nicked him and drew blood. As his eyes readjusted from the bright flash, the voices laughed louder as another pair of red eyes opened where Yand struck. No effect!
Bruno hollered in pain. "They're eating me alive!" Yand quickly turned to the bruin again, and saw the claws tear his flesh. Blood trickled down from the torn flesh as the shadows absorbed all the drops that fell on the ground. The claws continued to drag the bruin down to his waist.
"Bruno!" The rottweiler drew five more sigils in the air, each flaring in sequence. He released more of the Chaos into each rune, shaping the unstable energies into the desired effect. This time, the ground exploded all around Bruno. The result was the same as before.
"Yand! Help me!" Bruno pleaded, as the claws dragged him down to his chest. More claws came out, grabbing his arms, tearing his flesh. "Help me! They're eating me alive!" Fear and panic overtook Bruno as he frantically fought against the shadowy claws. As the dog saw the claws grab Bruno, he realized that they had not dragged him down, only held him in place. Why? He pushed the thought aside.
Desperately, Yand channeled pure Chaos bending and shaping it to his will. I have to save Bruno and there is only one way to save him now. He wrapped the random energies around Bruno. As he started to pull Bruno out, a surge of agonizing pain almost made him lose his grip on the magical energies. His mind flashed back to the empty mugs sitting on the table. His stupor made focusing and holding his magic difficult. His clouded mind forced the Chaos to pull Bruno free of the shadow claws' grasp. Bruno hollered in agony as Yand pulled him up to his waist, claws ripping his skin and muscle as they slipped. What Yand saw almost made him lose control of the Chaos. The claws tore open Bruno's entire stomach. Large gaping claw and bite marks ravaged his torso. Bruno hollered in pain, sending chills down Yand's spine.
He focused once more, hoping to pull his friend free. The claws, unwilling to let go of their prey, held Bruno tighter. He pushed himself to the limit, and beyond, and still nothing. The claws slowly started to pull the bruin down again. Yand struggled to keep conscious as the strain burned his mind and froze his body. He cursed at himself again for drinking so much ale. It made it impossible for him to channel all he could. I can not give up!
"HELP ME!" Bruno hollered in a weaker tone. Yand's blood froze as he heard his friend scream, seeing the life drain out of him.
Desperate, Yand channeled even more Chaos. The sudden surge sent a wave of scorching fire through his mind. His vision began to blur, as his body slowly numbed. He fought against the Chaos, to keep it from consuming him, and against his mind threatening to blacking out. He released all the pure Chaos he could spare onto the ground and pulled as hard as he could with the rest.
Yand heard blood curdling screams all around him as Bruno's body flew towards him, hitting him square on. The sudden impact pushed the dog over the edge. His body failed him completely, and his vision blurred and faded.
He barely heard Bruno's weak voice tell him, "Thank you, pup,” as the warm, comfortable embrace of darkness consumed him.
“That is what I remember,” Yand finished. His hands idly played with their bonds behind the chair he sat on.
"How come you have not been attacked by these," the thin weasel smiled, "'Shadow Demons’, is it? You barely have a scratch on you!" He examined Yand closely from across the wooden table. "Compared to Bruno, you’re in perfect health!"
Yand simply looked at his accusers and wondered how true those words were. Physically, he felt fine. Mentally, Yand felt close to the edge of insanity. All those close around him died, and he had no clue as to why. Everyone he loved, gone! Now, Bruno, his closest friend, may be dying. This was all he thought about ever since he woke up in his cell. No one told him of Bruno’s condition, which made him worry even more. All he came up with were more questions.
"Answer him!" The second guard yelled in his face as he leaned his bulk on the armchair. Yand smelled a mixture of ale and stale meat in his breath that mixed with a heavy sent of sweat and grunge from his fur. Probably did not take a bath in months! Yand thought, smiling inwardly. What are you thinking! This is no laughing matter! "Well?" The gorilla growled again.
"I do not know!" He barked back in his face. "I just do not know!" He repeated, almost whispering the words this time. Unsatisfied with the answer, the gorilla fought the urge to strike the prisoner. With rage in his eyes, he stood up and lumbered besides the smaller guard, leaning against the far wall.
"Well, the way we see it, you attacked Bruno and almost killed him. If he hadn’t managed to knock you out, he’d be dead!" The weasel’s small blue eyes stared accusingly. "Just like the incidence in Bastian. All the town folk dead except you. You were found unconscious in the Town Square." The weasel added. He leaned back on the chair and waited for Yand to reply.
Yand could not remember what happened that night at Bastian. He only remembered going to sleep. Then, he awoke, three days later, surrounded by strangers. Yand found himself lying in the Town Square with every building in town destroyed and all its people lying everywhere dead. He discovered burn marks that radiated outward from his body. This was proof enough for the strangers to take him prisoner. Too weak, he could not fight them. The courts found him innocent due to lack of evidence. This did little for his reputation as it made him look like a criminal who managed to beat justice. Only Bruno and the barkeep of The Dancing Unicorn Pub believed him. What is his name again? Yand racked his brain trying to remember the fat pig's name.
"Maybe his magic is finally getting to him. Driving him, you know." The larger guard did not finish his sentence, but Yand knew what he meant. Chaos energy have been known to consume those magis foolish enough to use more than they could control. Of those who were not consumed, the power drove most of them insane. "Maybe it finally drove him…'bananas'" Both guards laughed at the joke.
Yand seriously considered those words. Am I going crazy? Has Chaos finally taken over my mind? Yand shuddered at the thought. All the evidence pointed towards that conclusion. Is it possible that somehow, in a crazed state, he killed everyone in town under the control of Chaos? Is it possible that the Chaos used his subconscious to create those shadow demons to kill Bruno? He closed his eyes and slumped his forward. I need a drink! They all remained silent for a while, not a one wanting to consider the idea of Yand going insane.
"Well, might as well take him to his cell. He’s our prime suspect." The gorilla finally spoke. Yand could hear uneasiness in his voice.
The weasel sighed in relief. "Good idea." He stood up and walked behind Yand. "Don't try anything stupid." The guard ordered. Yand knew how empty that threat was. Even with his hands tied, he could still channel Chaos to free himself from those weak bonds. Yand thought it best to comply for now. If he tried to escape, it would only make him look guilty. Either way, he had no idea as what to do next. His head swam in so much confusion that he followed the guard meekly. His thoughts fell back to his fallen friend and wondered if he lived. Bruno, I am sorry!
Yand paced back and forth in his damp cell, trying not to think. The small cell gave him little room to move, which frustrated him even further. He slouched forward on the low, stinking cot. He hated small paces, being confined. More than a few times, he came close to simply blasting the prison walls open and walking out. He took a deep breath and convinced himself against it.
His eyes scanned the scantily furnished room. Only the small cot and a wash basin sitting on low stool decorated the room. Solid stone made three of the walls, while a metal grate made the fourth. A small barred opening, facing the metal grate, allowed sunlight to pour in his dimly lit room. Depressed, he still fought the urge to blast his way out.
His eyes landed on his reflection in the washbasin besides him. Only now did he realize how bad things were. His once shiny fur now lay dulled and matted. His eyes no longer shone bright blue; but instead, looked sunken and a dull gray. What once used to be a proud rottweiler, now only a common mutt stared back.
Angered, he swiped at the wash basin, sending it crashing to the wall, water spilling all over the floor. He lied face down on the cot, tears rolling down his face. He felt so alone. His family dead, most likely by his own hands, and his best and only friend most likely dying because of him. If Bruno ever died, he wondered how he could live with himself. I almost feel like I am mated to the big lug! He let a low chuckle escape admits his tears. I must be going crazy!
"Don't tell me,” a deep low voice rumbled. "You broke your wash basin again!"
Yand turned towards the grate. A large white lion stood on the other side. His uniform strained under his large muscular frame. If Yand did not feel so depressed, he would have found the lion sexually attractive. Right now, though, it was the last thing he wanted to think about. He simply nodded and laid his head back on the pillow again.
"Don't worry, son. Things will get better! Don't give up." He purred through the bars.
Yand looked back at the guard and smiled weakly. "Thanks."
The guard smiled back and added, "I'll get you a new one." With that, he padded away.
"Cute as he is smart." Yand whispered to himself, somewhat smiling.
"So are you!" He heard the lion reply.
He looked back and noticed he was long gone. Stupid! You should know that leonine have amazing hearing! Yand still smiled though. I must be going nuts! Teasing at a time like this! He turned his head back in the pillow. He liked this guard, compared to the others. Only he believed him innocent. All the others thought him guilty and treated him as such. The white lion took the time to talk to him as he did his rounds. Most likely feels pity for me or something! Though, it felt nice to talk to a friendly fur.
Pushing all thoughts aside, he closed his eyes and blanked his mind, trying to find peace in himself. Slowly, he managed to push all thoughts, doubts and emotions aside, and managed to find a semblance of peace in himself; something he has not felt in a long time.
His inner peace shattered as he felt a presence in the room. Most likely the guard with my new wash basin. I never asked his name! Shaking his head angrily, he pushed those thoughts aside. The feeling of presence grew stronger. Suddenly, Yand heard many soft, high pitched laughers as his tattoos itched and burned. NO! A wake of fear washed over his body. Quickly rising to his feet he looked around. It can not be, not here! He frantically looked around for the source of the laughter, looking at every shadow.
His eyes scanned the dark corners of his cell. One by one, pairs of red eyes opened in the shadows, even that cast by his body. Yand staggered backwards onto the grate. "No! You can not be here!" Yand yelled in disbelief.
"Oh, but wes are." Voices whispered from the shadows. "Yous have created uss. Wes do your bidding." Laughter echoed from all the shadows in the cell. "Wes have killed for you!" The voices laughed louder.
"No. Not true. I have not created you. I know I have not asked you to kill." Yand hollered back at the voices.
"Yess, yous have!" The voices insisted. "Your Chaoss told uss so! It told uss to kill at Basstion. It told uss to kill your friend Bruno. Wes follow your orderss." The voices laughed again.
Yand placed his paws over his ears, trying to shut out the laugher, with little effect. "Your lying." Yand replied, half heatedly. Yand realized that what they said made sense. It is quite possible that Chaos slowly took over his mind and soul, forcing him to do things he would not do; conscious or unconscious. Could it be that the Chaos used his subconscious to do these horrific deeds?
"Yess." The voices replied as if they read his mind.
Yand closed his eyes and covered his ears again, shaking his head in disbelief. "No. I am not responsible. It is not my fault." Tears rolled down his eyes as he pictured his destroyed hometown of Bastian and at his friend who lay at the brink of death. His legs failed him as he fell on his knees.
"Yess. All your fault! All of thems!" The voices laughed louder.
"NO!" Enraged, Yand channeled Chaos and formed a focused ball of energy.
"Yess!" The voices cheered and encouraged him. "Yess! Do it!"
Yand threw the ball of Chaos at the far wall, which exploded on contact. As the dust settled, a hole stood where the ball struck and the voices laughed louder. Yand howled at the eyes and formed another ball.
"YAND!" A voice called out behind him. "What are you doing?"
"The voices. I have to stop the voices from killing again!" Yand replied as his ball of Chaos grew larger. He heard his cell door open; but paid little attention to it. All that mattered was the destruction of the shadow demons.
A hand rest on his shoulder. "What voices, son?"
"Do you not hear them. They are all around the cell."
"I don't hear anything, or see anyone." The voice calmly replied.
Yand looked up, and noticed the eyes no longer stared at him. Only the gaping hole remained. "They were here! I swear they were!" Yand turned around and saw the white lion crouched besides him with a worried look on his face. "You believe me, do you not?" Yand asked, unsure if the Shadow Demons really existed. "Tell me I am not going crazy!"
The guard said nothing and stared back into his eyes. Yand could not read anything from the lion's stare. Slowly, he felt a sudden feeling of loneliness again, no one understanding him. He felt so exposed, so vulnerable and so alone that he wanted to curl up and die. But, the lion’s gaze held his as he helplessly continued to stare back. Slowly, the guard leaned forward and wrapped his arms around him and held him tightly. "It’s all right son. Don't worry. It’ll work out." He reassured warmly with his purring voice.
Yand, dumbfounded, let himself be held for a second. Then, he collapsed on the lion's chest, both physically and emotionally. His concentration waned, and his Chaos ball faded. Yand let himself cry, not able to contain his emotions any longer. Yand could barely remember the last time that some fur showed him compassion. It felt good; and, he no longer felt alone. Yand continued to cry, not able to stop and not wanting to. He wrapped his arms around the large lion, hugging him tightly. "You believe me, do you not?" Yand asked again, trying to hold onto any glimmer of hope.
The lion did not reply. He purred as he sat on the cold ground, holding him tightly. A large paw caressed Yand's head, while the other held him tightly in his lap. Yand did not care that the lion did not reply. He felt safe and no longer alone in the lion's strong arms and paws. With every stroke, the leonine caressed a worry away as he slowly fell asleep. He closed his eyes, letting himself being carried away by the relaxing sleep.